A few years ago while I was interviewing Daylight Nursery’s John Muller, the conversation turned to local legends. (John Muller was born in San Gregorio in 1946)
HalfMoonBayMemories (HMBM): When you were growing up, what was your favorite Coastside story?
JohnMuller (JM): Pomponio leaving behind a buried treasure.
HMBM: What kind of treasure?
JM: Gold coins.
HMBM: Hmmmm. Today gold is worth about $925 per ounce.
JM: Chief Pomponio lived there in the canyon. Pomponio Canyon is the first canyon south of San Gregorio. We always went down there as kids.
In the 1950s, 60s, the Farm Bureau hosted an annual picnic at the Pomponio Ranch. It was a huge ranch, a beautiful showplace. The owners turned it into a preserve for wild game, antelopes, waterfowl and white deer. A very private place but the local boys got to visit.
The owners were from San Francisco. They built a reservoir and erected white picket fences. As you headed east (off Highway 1) on the one-lane dirt road, you passed the Brasil, Arata and Cabriol homesteads and then the road opened out onto the Pomponio Ranch with its beautiful barnyard and the sound of the sprinklers watering the green alfalfa.
HMBM: And that’s when the Pomponio legends came up? At the picnic?
JM: That’s when the legends came up.
HMBM: He was killed there?
JM: Chief Pomponio was hung on a big old oak tree because he refused to reveal where he buried the treasure. The gold coins. The tree is dead, too. They say the ghost of Pomponio killed the tree when he was hung. The story was true to me as a child. I really believed that gold was buried in the hills.
Once a year we go with three or four families to Memorial Park and tell stories around the campfire. That’s how we keep Chief Pomponio’s legend alive.
HMBM: If somebody found Pomponio’s buried treasure today, they would be very happy with the loot. Gold is worth about $940 an ounce. Interestingly, gold is revered today as much as it was in the 1800s.